Unforeseen circumstances meant that a 5 day stay in Buenos Aires actually turned into a three weeks one! I shall not bore you with the details, but in a nut shell, I picked a fight with a world renowned German courier company, whose logo is three letters in red and yellow. Should be fairly easy to work out.
Whilst we were in BA last January, Lottie’s mum sent us a package to some friends that would be hosting us in Mendoza; containing various bits and bobs including used clothes, contact lenses and yes, Galaxy chocolate bars! In case you weren’t already aware, Argentina has very strict import laws especially when it comes to clothes despite them being declared. The package was unavoidably stopped at custom’s who, we thought, would kindly be holding it for us until we were able to come and pick it up at Ezeiza Airport after our tour of Patagonia. We checked with the courier company that all we had to do was to show up at Ezeiza with proof of ID, which they confirmed on numerous occasions.
We excitedly made our way to the Airport cherishing the idea that soon we’d be able to wear other garments than our hiking gear. We quickly realised that there was no easy way of getting to the International Airport, or a cheap one for that matter. Apparently, the “cheap way” to Ezeiza is via Monte Grande, which excuse my French, is an absolute ball ache! Two hours later, we finally made it to the Airport, only to find out that our package was in fact not with customs, but had been handed over to a third (private) party called TCA, which stands for Terminal de Cargas. Here’s where things went from bad to worse: TCA had actually been charging US $4 a day for our package to be stored in their storage unit, without us knowing. Three months later the charge had amounted to $330, which is a significant sum for two bag packers packers travelling South America on a shoestring! I hope that, for that sort of money, it was getting impeccable treatment!
Rumbled but not defeated, we decided to take it up with the courier service who initially took no responsibility at all, stating that it was not in their T&C’s to make the customer aware that a package may be help by a another company at a set cost; *bullshit*.
After three weeks of serious bargaining, both here and in the UK, the courier company agreed to pay the bill, handed to us by TCA, which by then had mounted to USD $360. I was able to twist their arm on the grounds that they had withheld important information from us, which should we have known, would have meant that we could have altered our plans to avoid such a steep fee!
Hopefully this is valuable information for anyone living in Argentina, looking to have something sent over to them from abroad! But also, that you should always stand your ground and fight it out in case of a clear injustice!
Moving swiftly on, it was time to make a decision on where to go next. Salta and the North was the obvious choice, as it was on the way to Bolivia. Having said that, we were also torn with the idea of checking out Iguazu Falls. After all, they are regarded as one of the ‘seven wonders of the world’ and who knows when we would be back in this remarkable part of the world. The down side was that, like all major sights in this country, it was not only a out of our way, but also very costly. I had recently heard that the entrance to NP Iguazu had gone up from 260 pesos to 330 pesos, cheeky.
We tossed a coin: heads Iguazu NP, tails straight to Salta! Heads won and within an hour I was at Retiro bus station going from officina to officina looking for the cheapest tickets. An old fella had loosely told me that going to Retiro Bus Station in person and therefore bypassing “Plateforma 10” meant that one may be illegible for “offerstas”. True enough as I was able to get a further reduction by paying in “effectivo” i.e. cash. In the end I was able to get tickets for $945 peso which was $300 to $500 pesos cheaper than on the mentioned website! Boom!
We left BA at 2:30pm and arrived the following morning in Puerto Iguazu at roughly 9am, checking into our private room at the ages, humble but charming Nuevo Hotel Misiones. I used Booking.com for the first time and found this place for $20 dollars a night.
We made our way to the parc, conveniently located 22km away from town centre! A very efficient and regular bus service runs throughout the day, leaving from the main bus station.
There are plenty of very accessible trails within the Argentinian side of the Parc and incredible up close views of the falls. By the way, we decided against going to the Brazilian side, which is the question EVERYONE seems to ask themselves upon going to the Iguazu area. Apparently the Brazilian side offers different vistas and panoramas, but of course it’s also another $300 or so to get in plus a pricey bus transfer and a border to cross.
The passerelle from the “train station” extends over a calm and serene area of water, until you are pretty much encircled by waterfalls. The noise from the crushing water is bewildering.
Wish I’d had a drone with Go Pro attached for this particular moment. Imagine the footage!
We left Iguazu National Parc mind blown by the spectacular beauty and power that the falls produce. We definitely felt humbled by the experience and lucky we were able to live it.
Next we were headed for Paraguay to see what the UNESCO World Heritage, Ruinas Jesuisticas, had to offer.
I had read about Ciudad del Este, a border town on the Paraguayan side, in a New York Times article named: Taking the Paraguyan Route to the Iguazu Falls ,which had woken a sense of intrigue in me. Ciudad del Este is known as the ‘Wild West’ of South America, “a bastion for bootleggers, organized crime, and maybe even Islamic extremists!” Read more about CDE in this Article which appeared in ‘The Week’.
Our time in CDE was short lived but intense! We made our way to the bus station and within minutes had boarded a bus that would take us to Trinidad where the Missions of Trinidad and Jesus are.
Arriving late at night, we found ourselves a little Posada to camp for the night. The following day we got up and the weather was FOUL. Nevertheless, we made our way to the first mission. It’s 25,000 Guaranies ($4.4 dollars) to get in, which gives you access to three different sites. Pretty cheap compared to the sites on the Argentinian side!
Who were the Jesuits and what were they up to in this corner of South America? The Jesuits were the fellows of The Society of Jesus who were particularly active in what is today modern Paraguay, Southern Brazil and Northern Argentina. From 1609, they set up reducciones (missions) working hand-in-hand with the Guaranies (local natives), whom they evangelised and educated, whilst protecting them from slavery and other evil influences of colonial society. The Guaranies, in these missions, were entirely self sufficient, sharing agriculture, food and any benefice made from the land equally, which lead Voltaire to describe this Utopian experience as a “triumph of humanity”. In 1767 the King of Spain, Carlos III, shut the missions down, seeing them as no more than an empire within an empire. There’s a great 1986 film on this called “The Mission” with Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons. These are some examples of the ruins left behind.
A little montage featuring the original soundtrack of The Mission. Quiet chuffed with this actually!
We both really enjoyed our time visiting the reducciones and would really recommend it to anyone who is on their way to, or back from the falls. Unlike Ignacio in Argentina, these sites were empty of any other tourists and we felt very privileged to have them all to ourselves! What more, unlike other UNESCO sites, here you can really roam around freely and if you need to climb a block to get the perfect shot, no one will come and reprimand you! These ruins can easily be accessed from Argentina as a day trip, avoiding yourself the seedy Ciudad Del Este border crossing.